Europe’s Best Buildings

5th Mies van der Rohe Pavillion Award

Thu 26.11.1998 – Fri 15.01.1999
Exhibition poster

Exhibition poster: Europas beste Bauten 1997
© Architekturzentrum Wien

opening: Wednesday, November 25th, 1998, 6:00 p.m.

The Mies van der Rohe Pavilion Award for European Architecture was created in 1987 by the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Fundació Mies van der Rohe Barcelona. The purpose of this bi-annual Prize is to recognize works by European architects for the development of contemporary European architecture.
On the occasion of Austria’s EU presidency, Architekturzentrum Wien and Wiener Städtische Versicherung are hosting this exhibition – Architecture in the Ring Tower III – on the European Award for Contemporary Architecture featuring the awarded project by Dominique Perrault – the Bibliothèque Nationale de France – and the 34 finalist projects.

Dietmar Steiner, Director Architekturzentrum Wien
Siegfried Sellitsch, Director Wiener Städtische Versicherung
Michael Häupl, Mayor of the city of Vienna
Lluis Hortet, Director Fundació Mies van der Rohe
Diane Gray, Curator Fundació Mies van der Rohe

November 26th, 1998 – January 15th, 1999

Monday – Friday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Exhibition site:
Wiener Städtische
Allgemeine Versicherung AG
Exhibition Center in the Ring Tower
Schottenring 30
A – 1010 Vienna

Dominique Perrault
Wednesday, January 13th, 1998, 7:00 p.m.
Architekturzentrum Wien

The participants

Footbridge over the Mur, Murau
Marcel Meili, Markus Peter, Jürg Conzett
Offices und Research Centre , Seibersdorf
Coop Himmelb(l)au

CM Office Building, Eeklo
Stéphane Beel

Primary School of Avgorou
Zenon Sierepeklis, Mario Economides

Czech Republik
Investment and Post Bank, Brno
Ales Burian, Gustav Krivinka

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Extension, Copenhagen
Henning Larsen

Teboil Ltd. Gas Station, Vaalimaa
Mikko Heikkinen, Markku Komonen
Shipboy Housing, Helsinki
Pekka Helin, Ritva Mannersuo

French National Library, Paris
Dominique Perrault
Archeolog. Museum a. Research Centre, Arles
Henri Ciriani
European Archeological Centre, Mont Beuvray
Pierre-Louis Faloci
University House of Arts, Bordeaux
Massimiliano Fuksas
Boileau Apartments, Paris
Yves Lion
Cité International (1st Phase), Lyon
Renzo Piano
Arts and Human Sciences Building, Université Pierre Mendès, Grenoble
Anne Lacaton, Jean Philippe Vassal

Friedrichstadt Passagen – Bloc 207, Berlin
Jean Nouvel
Hall 26, Hannover
Thomas Herzog, Hanns Schrade
Babanek House, Brühl
Heinz Bienefeld

House at Kiourka, Attica
Pantelis Nicolacopoulos
House for Art Collector, Anavryta
Catherine Diacomidis, Niko Haritos / Christos Papoulias

Temple Bar Framework Plan, Dublin
Group 91

Aukrust Centre, Alvdal
Sverre Fehn

Residential Block on Rua do Teatro, Oporto
Eduardo Souto de Moura

Boarding School, Morella
Enric Miralles, Carme Pinós
Archaeological and Fine Arts Museum, Zamora
Luis Moreno Mansilla, Emilio Tuñón Álvarez
Banco de Santander Headquarters, Madrid
Hans Hollein
New Offices for the Extremadura Gov., Mérida
Juan Navarro Baldeweg
IMPIVA Headquarters, Castelló de la Plana
Carlos Ferrater, Carlos Bento, Jaime Sanahuja

Winterthur Museum of Art Extension
Annette Gigon, Mike Guyer
Urban Project at Monte Carasso
Luigi Snozzi
Thermal bath Vals , Vals
Peter Zumthor
Signal Box, Auf dem Wolf , Basel
Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Harry Gugger

The Netherlands
Faculty of Economics and Management, Utrecht Polytechnic University
Mecanoo Architects
Porterlodges for the National Park De Hoge Veluwe, Hoenderloo
Police Station Vaals, Maastricht
Wiel Arets

The jury ’s decision

In their first meeting in Barcelona in January, 1997, the Jury initially considered 127 projects submitted by the Experts from which they selected 36 finalists for their respective merits. After extensive deliberations five projects were short listed and visited by the panel of jurists. These projects were:

River and Rowing Museum, Henley-on-Thames, United Kingdom, David Chipperfield
European Archaeological Centre at Mont Beuvray, France, Pierre-Louis Faloci
Aukrust Centre, Alvdal, Norway, Sverre Fehn
French National Library, Paris, France, Dominique Perrault
Thermal Baths Vals, Switzerland, Peter Zumthor

However the Jury, after visiting the River and Rowing Museum, concluded that the construction was not sufficiently completed for them to be able to form a definite opinion. On March 10, 1997, the Jury held their second and decisive meeting in Thessaloniki, the European Cultural Capital.

The panel based its decision fundamentally on the important contribution the building makes to the urbanscape of a major city and appreciated in particular the new urban condition that it creates. As the first large public monument on the Left Bank of the Seine in the east of Paris, it offers a vast esplanade of a new type, that simultaneously takes up and renews the Parisian tradition of the “grands espaces”. At the same time, it provides a new “front” to the 13th arrondissement and serves as a link over the railway tracks that seperate it.

The four towers become reference points in the Parisian cityscape; they propose another urban scale for a public monument, joining the repertoire of other existing vertical monuments. The panel recognised the capacity of the architecture to operate on different scales and to articulate them individually, without losing its coherence or its power. From this point of view, the choice of materials, deliberately limited in number and innovations concerning their use, contributes to the intelligibility of a programme of great complexity.

Finally, the panel salutes the success in the realisation of a project of this magnitude in such a short period of time, from concept to completion, and the architectural choices made, capable of resisting the imponderable vicissitudes of a changing programme; a realisation that proved the need of common goals between client and architecture.

The winning project

The French National Library is the last and most important of François Mitterrand’s grands projets. To better understand the scope of this project, it must be seen from the point of view of town planning.

The Library is the “seed” of a new Parisian quartier and acts as a foundation stone right in the heart of the quarter. A vast pedestrian promenade has been laid out to form a terrace which looks out over the Seine, and looks out, too, over the streets, avenues and squares of its future surroundings. The idea of building a “wall-less” architectural monument, in direct contact with the city and with no barriers or frontiers, has defined “a new place” in the capital with its own urban landscape.

The Library offers a public space for all: the promenade, and a private space for readers: the garden. This garden, a genuine fragment of forest set on l’Ille de France, stands in the centre of the library and is embedded in the heart of the promenade. The entire library is organised around and in relation to this natural space. Trees softly and gently separate the constantly busy promenade from the calm serenity of the reading rooms, the vast ornate pieces of wood and entwined metal forming a ring around the greenery, like a cloister in an abbey.

So, as President François Mitterrand described, the Bibliothèque “burrows into the soil as if seeking silence and peace. In a rival gesture, it confidently raises its towers and affirms its presence in the heart of the city”.
Dominique Perrault, May 1997

An initiatory place and not some monster of a building, part-temple and part-supermarket. A place of reference for the East End of Paris. A place that is part and parcel of the continuity of the sequence of large empty spaces along the Seine, like the place de la Concorde, the Champ de Mars, and the Invalides. In this way the site beside the Seine becomes one of major importance with the activation of this place; the hill in the 13th arrondissement gives on to the Seine, and turns its back on the disgrace of the sad Porte de Choisy and Porte d’Ivry highrise towerblocks.
With this combination of a free and open space, built to the scale of the capital, and horizontality, the library unfurls its breadth and volume by way of its four `beacon-like’ markers, akin to tension-rods or braces for the flat area between them, offering a verticality that defines a virtual volume, which, in turn, crystallizes all the magic, presence and poetry of the complex.

With its four corner towers resembling four open books all facing one another and delimiting a symbolic place, the building imposes its presence and identity on the scale of the city by the adjustment of its four corners. These urban landmarks develop and enhance the idea of the `book’, with a random kind of use of the towers, the occupation of which is like an accumulation of learning, of knowledge that is never complete, and of a slow but ongoing process of sedimentation.
Other complementary metaphors spring to mind, be it book towers, silos, or vast racks with countless shelves, or vertical labyrinths, and all these unambiguous images converge on a powerful identity of these architectural objects. The installation of a square underpins the notion of availability, as applied to treasure. The public place will offer a direct and natural physical contact between the sacred institution and the man in the street. The inclusion of an `inlaid’, sunken garden rounds off the symbolic siting of the project, offering a quiet spot away from the fuss and bother of the city. Like a cloister, this tranquil, unruffled space will invite contemplation and a flowering of intellectual endeavour.

The project is a piece of urban art, a minimalist installation, the “less is more” of emotion, where objects and the materials of which they are made count for nothing without the lights which transcend them. An initiatory walk across the footbridges slung among the branches of the trees, somewhere between sky and earth. Last of all, the soft protection of undergrowth, with its aromas and rustling sounds, reunions with oneself, and with another world.
Night vision: the library will be set in a halo of light, emanating from the garden and the service periphery. A diaphanous light will rise up through the interiors of the glass towers, culminating in four topmost points, which will shimmer like four lighthouse beacons. The liquid light will spread over the square, while the towers will be reflected in the Seine.

The challenge of creating a void preserves the future of the district, while at the same time steering its development and offering conspicuous architectural requirements, such as can be learnt from the great squares of Paris. A square is a space that is lined or hemmed: a system of continuous structures -combining porches, covered walks, and a lofty crowning feature forming a skyline- delimits the public place. This setting acts as a backdrop, not a waterfront foreground. It will accommodate diverse and varied architectural scripts, the sole rule being their shared role of accompanying, in their own right, the institution’s urban influence.
Extract from the competition text, 1989

French Government, represented by the Secretary of State for Public Buildings

Contractor / builder:
Bouygues SA, GKD, Sammode, St.Gobain Vitrage, Technip TPS

Aude Perrault, Gaëlle Lauriot-Prevost, Gabriel Choukroun, Guy Morisseau, Daniel Allaire, Yves Conan, Constantin Coursaris, Maxime Gasperini, Pablo Gil, Luciano d’Alesio, Claude Alovisetti, Judith Barber, Philippe Berbett, Jérôme Besse, Jean-Luc Bichet, Charles Caglini, Jean-François Candeille, Hristo Chinkov, Alexander Dierendonck, Céline Dos Santos, Marie-France Dussaussois, Laura Ferreira-Sheehan, Corrina Fuhrer, Catriona Gatheral, Dominique Guibert, Serge Guyon, Dominique Jauvin, Anne Kaplan, Christian Laborde, Maryvonne Lanco, Corinne Lafon, Zhi-Jian Lin, Olivier Lindon, Pierre Loritte, Patrice Marchand, Thierry Meunier, Brigitte Michaud, Franck Michigan, Rosa Precigout, René Puybonnieux, Martine Rigaud, Hildegard Ruske, Jérôme Thibault, Catherine Todaro, Louis van Ost, Inge Waes

architectural engineering: Perrault Associés SA
economist: Pieffet Corbin Tomasina
BET structure: Sechaud et Bossuyt
BET fluid: Technip Seri Construction
BET safety security Télécom: Syseca
BET centralized technical management: HGM
BET agronomics: Sauveterre
acoustics: ACV